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CONUS Archive
SUGGESTED CLINTON TRANSCRIPT: Q. In going after teenage smoking, Mr. President, did you consider including alcohol abuse as part of that? I know you mentioned drunk driving in your opening remarks, but alcohol among young people is thought to be as much of a problem as smoking is. The President. First of all, it is far less accessible. It's harder to get. What we have advocated there, and I hope the Congress will adopt, is a national zero tolerance for alcohol among young drivers. If we go to zero tolerance among young drivers, I think it will make a difference. Now, I noted last week--and I would like to give the State credit for it--one State adopted zero tolerance this last week. We are now up to 27 States that have done it on their own. But I think zero tolerance is the best thing to do. Sarah [Sarah McClendon, McClendon News]. Opposition From Congress Q. Mr. President, there's a move on Capitol Hill among some right-wing Senators--Faircloth of North Carolina--and also joined by--and D'Amato, of course, New York--and several left-wing Democrats, real liberal left-wing Democrats to try to get you out of office this month. They're going to try to do that by embarrassing you so that you will resign. Would you resign your office under any circumstances? [Laughter] The President. Well, if you promise to run off with me, I might. [Laughter] But otherwise I can't think of any reason. [Laughter] 1996 Election Q. Mr. President, continuing on the political mien, if we might. [Laughter] A year from now the Republican Presidential convention opens. Looking at the electoral vote now, it seems to be a lot of political experts say that you're in trouble in the South, in trouble in the West, it's really going to be an uphill battle for reelection. How do you assess your position at this time? The President. Well, first of all, I don't think my position at this time amounts to anything because the world will turn around. At this time, when I started running for President--I hadn't even declared for President this time 4 years ago, and everybody said the incumbent President could not be defeated. So I don't think anyone knows, and I think all this is idle speculation. I will tell you this: I have done my best to do what I said I would do when I ran. This is the second anniversary of our economic plan. We passed our reconciliation bill on this day 2 years ago. Theirs is still not passed. And the people who are now in charge of the Congress said that it would be the end of the world; we would have a terrible recession; it would bankrupt the country; it would be awful. And 2 years later, we have 7 million jobs, 2\1/2\ million new homeowners, 1\1/2\ million new small businesses, a record, a record number of new self-made millionaires, a very high stock market, very low inflation. Now, this is the first time in history we've had this kind of surge that hasn't also raised the incomes of ordinary people because of the new realities which we face. So now, economic policy must be seen as a two-step, not a one-step process. We've got to grow the economy and raise incomes. That's why I want to raise the minimum wage. That's why I want to give every unemployed worker or underemployed worker the right to 2 years of education at the local community college. That's why I'm trying to have a tax cut that's focused on childrearing and education, to raise incomes. But I believe when the record of this administration is made, in every area, whether it's this or in fighting crime or protecting the environment or educating our people or trying to prepare the world for the end of the post-cold-war era and a new era of cooperation, I believe the American people will listen, and then they'll make their own judgments about it. But I don't think anybody can know what's going to happen a year and a half from now. Teenage Smoking Q. Mr. President, are you sure you wouldn't like to pledge today not to smoke cigars anymore to set an example? [Laughter] The President. Well, you mean should I go from five or six down to zero a year? Maybe so. But I don't think that's the point. The point I want to make is, number one, cigars and pipes were not found by the FDA to be part of this. Did you know that? Number two, the issue is, for me--I try to set a good example. I try never to do it when people see. I admitted that I did do it when Captain O'Grady was found because I was so happy. It was a form of celebration. But I don't think you should let that become the issue. The issue is whether the children are smoking cigarettes in this country. Nuclear Testing by France Q. Mr. President, on the French nuclear testing, the French are now saying they will agree to a zero threshold for nuclear tests in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Will the U.S. concur? Do you think the French should cancel their tests? And very importantly, has the U.S. agreed to share technology with the French so that they can develop their own computer simulations and not have to test? The President. I applaud the French statement today. It will make it much easier for us to get a comprehensive test ban. I do not think they should resume testing, but they know that. That's a difference between us and them and most of the rest of the world and them. And we will have a statement about our own policy in the very near future, but I don't want to make it today. Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Let's make this one the last question. Teenage Smoking Q. Mr. President, the steps that you outlined today are tailored very carefully to curb the sale of tobacco to young people. My question is, if they're implemented, will the FDA retain power that would allow them at a future date to ban or curb sale of tobacco to adults? The President. Well, of course, that's what the tobacco companies are worried about, I guess. Our belief is that this is a pediatric disease. This is a problem for children, that when tobacco is lawful, it would be wrong for a Government agency to try to in any way restrict the access of adults to it if it is lawful. So the answer is, I don't know what the law would be because, in this case, I'm not the lawyer for the agency. I can't give you a lawful answer. I can tell you that the policy of this Government is that the focus should be on our children, their health and their welfare. That is the focus. If there is a worry underlying the question you asked, there is an answer to that worry: Put it in the law. Let's have the tobacco companies come in. Let's talk to the Members of Congress from the tobacco-growing States. Let's pass it into law. Pass these restrictions. Put them into law. Do it now. Then we won't have all these lawsuits, and we will begin immediately, right now, to protect the children of this country. That is the answer. Yes, Deborah [Deborah Mathis, Gannett News Service]. Whitewater Hearings Q. Mr. President, there has been a parade of you and your wife's friends, associates, aides, former aides on Capitol Hill lately in both the Senate and House Whitewater hearings. How does it make you feel to see so many of your old friends and associates being grilled, in effect? And have you been keeping track of the hearings, and if so, how? The President. The answer to the second question is, not really, Occasionally I see a clip or something, but I don't watch television very much, except late at night for a few minutes before I to go bed. So I haven't had a chance to keep up with it. My impression is that they have all acquitted themselves quite well, and I've been proud of them. But I don't have anything to say on the underlying substance beyond what I've already said. Teenage Smoking Q. Mr. President, on the FDA rule again, a coalition of advertisers is filing suit today saying that for a legal product, your rule would go far beyond any precedent in restricting first amendment rights. Is there any precedent that you could cite that would be equivalent in its reach into the first amendment? And if not, are you not concerned about that aspect? The President. First of all, nobody who's ever held this office loved the first amendment any more than I do. And no one has ever felt both edges of it any more than I have. I believe in the first amendment. That's what my speech about religious freedom was about the other day. I believe in it. But I would remind you of just a few basic facts. It is illegal for children to smoke cigarettes. How then can it be legal for people to advertise to children to get them to smoke cigarettes? And does anybody seriously doubt that a lot of this advertisement is designed to reach children so we get new customers for the tobacco companies as the old customers disappear? It cannot be a violation of the freedom of speech in this country to say that you cannot advertise to entice people to do something which they cannot legally do. So I just don't buy the first amendment argument, it's just not true. And by the way, that is why--to go back to an earlier question--the FDA ran the risk of having a rather complex rule to make it clear that there should be some freedom left, some considerable freedom left to advertise to adults. Yes, ma'am. China Q. Mr. President, your administration has said on many occasions that you're going to adhere to the one-China policy. However, the two sides of Taiwan's fate obviously have different views on what this one China is. And you are the one who made the decision to allow President Teng-hui to come to the United States, and China is very, very unhappy now. So I wonder, how are you going to balance between a democratic Taiwan willing to risk everything to seek international recognition and, on the other hand, the very, very important strategic interests between the United States and China? The President. First of all, we're going to balance them by continuing to adhere to the one-China policy. It is the policy of the United States; it has been for years; it continues to be. Secondly, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that our policy is clearly understood in China and in Taiwan. I made the decision personally to permit President Li from Taiwan to come into this country not as the head of state, not as the head of a government that we had recognized but because he wanted to come. I'm sure there were political aspects to this, but he asked whether he could come to his college reunion, whether he could give speeches, whether he could travel in our United States. He is a law-abiding person. We had no grounds on which to deny him. In the American culture there is a constitutional right to travel and a constitutional right to speak. And as a man who has almost never missed any of his high school or college reunions, I just felt I ought to give him the same opportunity. It was not an abrogation of our one-China policy in any way. It was a recognition of something that's special in our culture about the rights we accord individuals who obey our laws and comport themselves appropriately. Welfare Reform Q. Mr. President, as you know, the welfare reform bill has been delayed in the Senate. I wonder how optimistic you are that welfare reform can pass this year and to what extent welfare reform has been wrapped up in Republican Presidential politics. The President. Well, it plainly has been wrapped up to some extent in Republican Presidential politics, and that's bad because 85 percent of the American people want it. As I think Senator Dole acknowledged a day or so ago, I made a personal appeal to him to try to work with me to get a welfare reform bill out and to do it this year. What do we want out of welfare reform? We want work. We want time limits. We want responsible parenting. Those are the three things we want. Can we get there from where we are? I think we can. I think that Senator Dole has moved somewhat away from the extreme right of his party. Senator Daschle, Senator Mikulski, and Senator Breaux have offered a bill which has united the Democrats in moving away from the conventional wisdom toward welfare reform. And what we need to do over this break is that folks need to get together and figure out how we can put these approaches together and come out with a bill which promotes work, which promotes time limits, which promotes responsible parenting. I cannot believe we can't reach an agreement here. Meanwhile, I will keep trying to get more States involved. You know, I have 32 States now that I've given permission to get out from under the Federal rules to promote welfare reform. And I would remind you I have offered all 50 States within 30 days the right to require young teen mothers to stay at home and stay in school to get checks, to put time limits and work requirements on welfare reform, and to allow the States to convert the welfare benefits and the food stamp benefits into wage supplements to get private employers to hire people in the private sector. Every State in the country could do that within the next 30 days. They just call us and send a request; we do it. So we'll keep working, but we need the legislation, especially because we have to have national standards for tough child support enforcement that we cannot implement without the law. I think our time is--one more question. Yes, go ahead. Legislative Priorities Q. Before the tobacco regulations came up this news conference was billed as your chance to give a farewell message to Congress. If you could send them a postcard from Jackson next week--[laughter]--what would you list as your top three or four priorities? The President. We need to pass a decent budget that balances the budget but doesn't do it on the backs of elderly people who don't have enough to live on by exploding their Medicare costs; it doesn't walk away from our commitment to education, the education of our young people from Head Start to more affordable college loans through national service; that doesn't undermine our common commitment to the environment. We can find common ground on this budget that brings the American people together and moves us forward. The second thing I would say is, we need to pass welfare reform. We need to pass welfare reform--work, time limits, responsible parenting. The third thing I would say is, let's get to work on the unfinished agenda here, pass the antiterrorism bill, the line-item veto, appoint the political reform commission. Let's get after it. Let's do the things that we all are for, we keep saying we're for. Let's deliver for the American people. Let me say in closing that my family and I are leaving on Tuesday for Wyoming, and I want you to enjoy your vacation. Thank you, and God bless you. Thank you.
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